In facing the death of a loved one, “many families show that death does not have the last word.”
These were the words of Pope Francis during his weekly General Audience address in St. Peter’s Square. The Holy Father continued his catechetical series on the family, reflecting on the sufferings endured by families when they lose a loved one.
“Death is an experience that affects all families, without any exception,” he said. “It is a part of life; and yet, when it touches family affections, death is never able to be seen as something natural.”
Regarding the death of a child, the Pope said that for parents, the experience seems to “contradict the elementary nature of the relationship that gives meaning to the family itself.”
The Jesuit Pope recalled parents he meets during Mass at Casa Santa Marta, who show him pictures of their sons or daughters who have passed away.
“Their gaze is full of pain, and death touches them. When it is a child, it touches them deeply. The whole family remains as if paralyzed, speechless.”
He also reflected on the experience of children losing a parent, particularly very young children, who do not have the sufficient experience to “give a name” to what has happened.
At times, however, death can have what the Pope described as “accomplices”. These accomplices, which include hate, envy, pride, and avarice can turn the experience into something more painful and unjust.
“We think of the absurd ‘normality’ with which, at certain times and in certain places, events that add to the horror of death are caused by hatred and indifference to other humans. May the Lord free us from becoming accustomed to this!”
Reborn in Hope
Continuing his catechesis, Pope Francis said that despite the pain caused by the “darkness of death”, families still have the possibility of protecting the faith and love that “unites us with those we love.”
Through Christ’s Resurrection, he said, death can be prevented “from poisoning our life, to spoil our affections, to make us fall into the darkest void.”
The 78-year-old Pontiff said that through faith in the Resurrection, one can be consoled by the fact that “our loved ones are not lost in the darkness of nothingness.” By allowing oneself to be sustained in this faith, the experience of mourning can strengthen the bonds within the family.
Recalling the Gospel reading of Jesus’ raising of the widow’s son, which was read prior to his address, the Pope noted Christ’s gesture after raising the child from the dead.
“The Gospel says that ‘Jesus gave him back to his mother.’ And this is our hope! All of our dear ones who have gone away – all of them – the Lord will give them back to us and we will meet with them together,” the Pope said.
Concluding his address, Pope Francis said that there is a need for pastors within the Church who can concretely express the meaning of faith to families experiencing the loss of a loved one. He once again reminded the faithful of Christ giving back the child to his widowed mother.
“He will do the same with all of our loved ones and with us when we meet them, when death is finally conquered within us. It is conquered by the cross of Jesus,” the Pope said.